Today’s premium ultraportable laptops don’t have to cut too many corners in order to be super thin and super light. Recent generations of low-power processors don’t require a lot of cooling, and more efficient hardware and software allows for decent battery life even with physically smaller batteries. The relatively tiny USB Type-C Port has also allowed manufacturers to make laptops slimmer without sacrificing connectivity completely. Apple pioneered this particular style of laptop in 2015 with its super-minimalist 12-inch MacBook, and Dell trimmed its XPS 13 to nearly the same degree soon after. Other companies have also come up with their own products that aim for similar balances of power, style, portability, and price.
The MacBook has just been killed off, but Lenovo’s Yoga S940 is now available in India to tempt buyers who don’t mind spending a lot of money. It goes up against Dell’s XPS 13 (Review) as well as HP’s Spectre x360 13 (Review) and Acer’s Swift series. Lenovo is promising smart AI features in addition to style and portability. Let’s see what the Yoga S940 actually delivers.
Lenovo Yoga S940 design
The Yoga S940 is not flashy and there isn’t anything about its exterior that will grab attention. Its body is made out of aluminium with a very sedate dark grey sand-blasted texture. What you’ll notice most is how thin and compact this laptop is. That said, it does feel very premium when you pick it up and turn it around in your hands. Despite weighing only 1.2kg, we never felt that it was flimsy.
You might associate Lenovo’s Yoga brand with 2-in-1 convertibles, but the Yoga S940 is not one. It doesn’t even have a touchscreen, let alone the ability to fold over and be used as a tablet. In many parts of the world, the Yoga brand now applies to premium thin-and-light models as well as 2-in-1s. It’s interesting to note that for this reason, you might come across the same device sold as the IdeaPad S940 in some countries.
The main design feature of this laptop is only visible once you open the lid. Lenovo has used curved-edge glass for the screen, so there are no visible side borders. Just like on most of today’s premium smartphones, the glass of the screen extends right to the edges of this device’s upper half. This makes for an interesting look, and it’s honestly very subtle but also very slick.
One downside to this is that reflections can be problematic, especially under overhead office lights, because there’s no angle at which light won’t hit some part of the curve. You’ll also wind up leaving a fingerprint every time you touch the lid to open or close it.
Despite the screen’s narrow borders, there’s enough room for a webcam and Infrared sensing hardware thanks to a tiny tab on the top. Due to how small this laptop is, you might have to slouch a bit or tilt the screen backwards so that the camera can see your face when using Windows Hello authentication to unlock the device.
The keyboard is decent, considering the amount of space available. We’re never going to be happy with arrow keys squashed into a single row, but this is unfortunately the norm now. We had to adjust our typing posture a little since the bottom row is very close to the rim of the keyboard tray. There are only two backlight intensity levels that you can choose from.
The key action is shallow and crisp, but we got used to the Yoga S940 and were up to our usual typing speed relatively easily. The clickable trackpad is large and positioned well, and we had no trouble at all with it.
There are two top-firing speakers flanking the keyboard, and another two on the bottom of this laptop. You get two Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports on the right, and another USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C port on the left, along with a 3.5mm combo headset socket. Any of the three Type-C ports can be used for charging but the one on the left is recommended.
Lenovo Yoga S940 specifications and software
We’re delighted with Lenovo’s recent initiative to let customers configure laptops to their own individual requirements through its online store. This effort started out with several ThinkPad models, and now the new Yoga S940 is available for customisation as well. The starting price is Rs. 1,22,133 (thanks to a coupon code that’s applied by default). However, shipping time is two weeks minimum at the time of writing this.
The base configuration of the Lenovo Yoga S940 features a Core i5-8265U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe SSD, and 14-inch full-HD screen. Our review unit has a Core i7-8565U processor 16GB of RAM, a 1TB PCIe SSD, and full-HD screen, as well as an optional Type-C dongle in the box, which brings its price to Rs. 1,43,184 after a Rs. 3,000 discount. Shipping time goes up to three weeks, though as of now.
You can also choose a 4K resolution screen for an additional Rs. 11,969, and go from Windows 10 Home to Pro for Rs. 9,000. We would strongly suggest going for the higher amount of RAM while configuring your laptop, since it appears to be soldered and not upgradeable. On the other hand, the SSD options are listed as M.2 modules, which suggests that post-purchase upgrades will be possible.
Other than these components, you get a 52Wh battery, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, and the aforementioned webcam plus Infrared camera. The optional dongle gives you one USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port as well as HDMI and VGA video outputs. There don’t appear to be any options to buy accessories, software, or an extended warranty as part of the customisation process.
Lenovo preloads McAfee LiveSafe with a one-year subscription, which threw up annoyingly large popups from time to time. There’s also the company’s own Lenovo Vantage utility that lets you apply system updates including BIOS updates, and tweak some hardware settings. You can set the Yoga S940 to lock itself when you aren’t in front of it (which requires the cameras to be on constantly), enable rapid charging or battery life conservation, run quick hardware diagnostics, and check for security problems.
There are a few Vantage features we haven’t seen before. First, you can have the webcam automatically blur your background or apply a stylised filter to it while you remain in focus, regardless of what chat or photo app you use. We tried this with the default Windows 10 camera app and found the edge detection to be crude at best, despite the presence of an Infrared camera.
You also get controls for microphone tuning, including situational awareness and echo cancellation. There’s even an option to dampen the sound of you typing while on an audio or video call. There are also a few tools such as a blue light filter and per-app camera permission toggles.
Another big software feature is the Glance app, which we first encountered when reviewing the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme. This uses the Infrared camera to track eye movement and can move the mouse cursor as well as windows to another monitor. This is intended to speed up multitasking when using the Yoga S940 with a second monitor, which is arguably a rare use case scenario. We wanted to try this, but couldn’t get a monitor working over HDMI using Lenovo’s own Type-C dongle.
If you have both Vantage and Glance enabled and using the Infrared and standard cameras, the white and red LEDs above the screen stay illuminated constantly, which can be distracting. These tools are interesting, but not all seem useful – the webcam background blurring is potentially good for privacy, but the implementation isn’t great. Also, the Vantage software UI isn’t very well designed or laid out and you might not realise how many options there are at first.
Lenovo Yoga S940 performance and battery life
The Lenovo Yoga S940 is a pleasure to carry around and use. You’ll barely notice its weight in a backpack or sling bag, and even its 65W charger is relatively compact. You can whip it out anywhere to get work done, which to us is its biggest appeal. With casual office use and some Web surfing, it didn’t get too hot to be used on a lap, and it should fit nicely on an airplane tray table too.
The screen is bright and vibrant. Videos looked great, and even text was crisp and readable. As usual we had to reduce the default Windows 10 scaling, but otherwise everything was comfortable. We did slightly miss having a touchscreen on occasion. We also didn’t think that we’d benefit much from choosing the 4K resolution option for a panel this size.
Sound from the speakers is surprisingly loud and rich for a device this thin. There’s even some bass to the sound. It doesn’t distort at high volumes, but the entire body of the laptop vibrates. It’s great for music, but voices aren’t always clear enough when watching videos.
The base of the laptop did get quite warm with extended periods of use and when doing anything intensive. The upper right of the keyboard also got uncomfortable when playing games and running heavy benchmarks.
As far as benchmarks go, the Lenovo Yoga S940 posted scores of 3,871 and 2,751 in PCMark 10’s standard and Extended test runs. Cinebench R20’s single-core and multi-core test scores were 395 and 1,175 respectively. These are decent enough numbers for general productivity. POVRay’s render benchmark took 3 minutes, 38 seconds, but the Blender 3D rendering benchmark took 1 hour, 15 minutes and 44 seconds to run.
3DMark gave us 473 points in its Time Spy test and 1,079 in the simpler Fire Strike test. Clearly, we aren’t dealing with high-performance hardware here, and so heavy content creation work and gaming are not the intended use cases for this laptop.
Rise of the Tomb Raider crashed when we tried running its benchmark at 1920×1080 using the High preset. Stepping down to Medium quality, the test was able to run to completion but with a score of just 6.64fps. At 1280×720, the score went up to only 10.57fps. Clearly, even moderately old 3D games will struggle to run on this hardware in such a slim body.
If we consider only general usage and productivity tasks such as creating documents and surfing the Web with dozens of tabs open, the Lenovo Yoga S940 did pretty well. This laptop was always snappy and responsive throughout our time with it. Our real-world file compression test took 4 minutes, 11 seconds, and transcoding a video file from into H.265 took 1 minute, 53 seconds.
Battery life was good, coming in at about seven to eight hours of casual use including about an hour of video streaming and constant Web surfing. The Battery Eater Pro benchmark ran for 2 hours, 57 minutes which is fairly impressive. You should keep in mind that Lenovo rates the battery life of the Yoga S940 ta 15 hours with the full-HD screen option but just 7.5 hours if you choose a 4K panel.
Lenovo has done well with the design of the Yoga S940, even though it isn’t as attention-grabbing as Dell’s XPS 13 or HP’s Spectre x360 13. This is a device that prioritises style and portability, sacrificing performance a little bit compared to similarly priced but bulkier devices. As people who need to travel a lot and work in some cramped spaces will agree, every little bit of convenience counts.
The curved-edge display looks slick, and the keyboard and trackpad are decent enough for office work. Battery life is good, and the speakers were a pleasant surprise too. However, our favourite feature by far is the ability to customise hardware to the degree that Lenovo offers now.
We don’t think we’d really care much if the eye-tracking features weren’t there, but you might find some use for them. Other smart touches such as noise suppression and background blurring are potentially more useful to more people.
Pricing is competitive with Dell and HP in the premium ultraportable market. You’ll have to decide whether you want 2-in-1 with a touchscreen or not. If you have the budget for it, this laptop could be an excellent travel companion.
In closing, there’s one big caveat that we have to note. Intel has just announced its 10th Gen ‘Ice Lake‘ Core CPUs for ultraportable laptops. These new chips will raise performance in this very laptop segment, especially when it comes to graphics, and they will be available in laptops very soon.
We already know that the Yoga S940 will be refreshed, since it was shown off on stage at Intel’s Computex 2019 keynote as a frontrunner for Intel’s Project Athena initiative. If you’re spending so much money, you’ll probably want to wait for the very best, but considering that it took Lenovo from January till now to bring this version of the Yoga S940 to India, there’s no telling how long you might have to wait for a refresh that hasn’t even been announced yet to come to this country.